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Anti-biotech radicals turn research into a war zone

Is this a weird world, or what? Used to be a career in research was not considered particularly dangerous. Oh, an ag researcher might have a heat stroke while making crosses or checking plots in the summer sun, or be assailed by chiggers, mosquitoes, and assorted other biting pests, and medical researchers might occasionally be overcome by fumes from laboratory chemicals.

Now, research has become a war zone.

Labs have been burned, facilities ransacked and files destroyed, plots torn up, animals set loose, and researchers threatened with physical harm. The recent-years focus on biotechnology has only spurred the protesters to ramp up their terror campaign.

In one of the most recent instances, police in Italy managed to disable a very powerful bomb that had been planted at a biotech center where researchers were working on interspecies organ transplants, such as pig livers into humans. The fuse had been lit, police said, but luckily it went out before detonating the bomb.

The anti-biotech radicals are a lot like Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida loonies: They want to take the world back to the Stone Age. Regardless of the consequences to humanity as a whole, they want to dictate the pace of scientific progress according to their own messianic insight into what is right for the world.

An example of how convoluted things have become: The government of South Africa, which has six nations with some 13 million of its citizens on the brink of starvation, has decreed that it will refuse donations of corn that may contain some genetically modified kernels. The corn offered through the World Food Program, of which the U.S. is the largest donor participant, could not be guaranteed GMO-free, the WFP said.

The government says it fears the genetically modified corn will cross-pollinate varieties grown there and thus jeopardize sales of South African grain and livestock to its major European Union markets.

“We have decided, as a government, not to accept genetically modified maize,” one government official said. “It would be too risky.” Another official countered that EU citizens, and those of other wealthy nations, “can afford to debate genetically modified foods — they have the comfort of a food surplus. Hungry people only want something to eat.”

Barring some sort of 9/11 equivalent catastrophe in the world of agriculture, biotech isn't going to go away. The genie's long out of the bottle; too many promising avenues need to be explored. Not only solutions to the hunger of millions hang in the balance; the potential for alleviating many of mankind's major health problems may lie in the work researchers are doing.

We have come so far in such a relatively short time, thanks to man's inquisitiveness and ability to expand on the achievements of those who've gone before.

It's unfortunate there are those who would stop progress in its tracks and impose their own selfish views on the rest of the world. To the extent they're able to do this, whether through protests, bombings, or political strong-arming, the progress of research may be slowed.

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